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- 08/13/18--06:00: _There are 114% more...
- 08/14/18--06:00: _A professor who tau...
- 08/14/18--09:06: _Successful entrepre...
- 08/15/18--06:12: _Startup founders wh...
- 08/16/18--06:00: _At the start of eve...
- 08/17/18--06:00: _Drybar founder Alli...
- 09/14/18--05:55: _I'm an executive co...
- 09/17/18--05:57: _Companies like IKEA...
- 09/18/18--10:58: _I'm an ER doctor wh...
- 09/19/18--08:40: _A Morgan Stanley ex...
- 10/06/18--07:00: _Tech's diversity pr...
- 10/09/18--08:01: _I turned the 3-step...
- 10/11/18--07:10: _The former Google e...
- 10/11/18--11:07: _I've taught more th...
- 10/20/18--08:30: _This Irish CEO expl...
- 10/29/18--06:03: _An entrepreneur who...
- 11/02/18--07:48: _The CEO of a startu...
- 11/07/18--09:14: _A startup founder a...
- 11/08/18--08:56: _The best lesson I'v...
- 11/27/18--08:34: _A business school p...
- In the past 20 years, the number of women-owned firms in the US has increased 114%.
- Research shows that many women start businesses because it just seems like a better alternative to the demands of corporate life.
- In the traditional workplace, women often face gender discrimination and have a hard time balancing work and childrearing.
- Yet while entrepreneurship seems to offer greater autonomy and flexibility, it can also contribute to economic insecurity.
- A Columbia University psychology professor, who has taught MBA students at New York University and the London School of Economics, says they increasingly want to become entrepreneurs.
- Research suggests that few MBA grads go on to start their own companies — except at top programs for aspiring entrepreneurs.
- Opinions differ as to whether an MBA is helpful for people who want to become entrepreneurs.
- Experts say too many people suffer from the "delusional belief" that their careers should be linear — and it's not doing them any favours.
- Three successful entrepreneurs say people should think of themselves as "entrepreneurs" rather than "employees".
- They explain why the linear career isn't always the most secure, and how to know when it's time to change direction.
- Successful "Shark Tank" alumni — the founders of Lollacup and Cousins Maine Lobster— say it's important to tell your story when you're pitching investors.
- That way, you can show them why you're the perfect people to sell this product.
- The founders say too many entrepreneurs overlook this element of their pitch, both to investors and to customers.
- But customers today want more information than ever about the companies they support.
- Starting a business because you're passionate about it isn't always advisable, experts say.
- Too much enthusiasm can be unappealing to potential investors, who would rather see an entrepreneur who's highly prepared.
- Passion can also lead to poor business decisions.
- Some research suggests that passion can grow over time the more effort an entrepreneur puts into their business.
- Alli Webb cofounded the blowout salon Drybar in 2008, and it is now a thriving business with more than 100 locations across North America.
- She built the business with her brother on the financial side and her husband on the design side, an arrangement that was ultimately successful but initially brought unique challenges.
- Webb explained how she learned that founders need to adapt their responsibilities and refine their focus as their business scales.
- Comedy icon Caroline Hirsch
- Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman
- "Million Dollar Listing" star Ryan Serhant
- Business coach Marie Forleo
- Entrepreneurs need to exercise multiple times a week to be mentally sharp and operate with an unwavering focus.
- Making yourself a priority will allow you to maximize your energy and increase your ability to care for others.
- Exercise can be an entrepreneur's greatest competitive advantage — it boosts confidence, improves memory, and develops laser-like focus.
- Home Depot, IKEA, and Accenture are examples of major companies with innovation labs.
- The labs are designed to attract the brightest minds in technology, giving them a place to channel their entrepreneurial spirit with the security of working for an established organization.
- Companies benefit too, because they're less likely to lose their top talent to the startup world.
- Alphabet, Google's parent company, has a famous innovation lab called X.
- Dr. Sudip Bose is an emergency physician and Cofounder and Chief Medical Officer at liveClinic.
- He's found that many health problems aren't unpredictable — if you track your health data, you'll see warning signs well in advance.
- The same applies to business: Tracking your data can help you spot problems before they become serious.
- He says that to improve any element of life — from health to business — you have to focus on the quantitative, not just the qualitative.
- Carla Harris is a Vice Chairman, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley.
- She heads Morgan Stanley's Multicultural Innovation Lab, which invests in multicultural and female tech entrepreneurs who have traditionally faced institutional and cultural barriers to funding.
- She considers these investments to be a business opportunity borne of a market inefficiency: underinvestment in female and multicultural tech entrepreneurs.
- This post is part of Business Insider's ongoing series on Better Capitalism.
- Silicon Valley has long had a diversity problem.
- Women, African-Americans, and Latinos are underrepresented in the tech industry and tend to be paid less than their white male counterparts.
- But the diversity problem is even worse than that; a new study found that the gender disparity in equity — or stock ownership — held by tech workers and founders is even worse than the pay gap.
- In Silicon Valley, stock holdings can be much more important and valuable than salaries.
- The disparity is important, because Silicon Valley's ecosystem centers around startup founders who cash in their shares when their companies go public or are acquired.
- Dr. Sudip Bose is an emergency physician and Cofounder and Chief Medical Officer at liveClinic.
- When he was being trained as a doctor, he was taught to check three things on any patient first, regardless of their complaint: airway, breathing, and circulation.
- As the CEO of his own startup, he translated this process into his own version of ABC: assess, break it down, and complete.
- He finds this system helps him prioritize problems without being distracted by anxiety or other emotional reactions.
- Beeswax is an ad-tech startup in New York founded by three former Google executives.
- The founders of Beeswax said they chose their company's name so it would stand out in a crowded industry.
- They deliberately avoided using the word "ad" in their name to distinguish them from their competition.
- Susie Moore is a high-performance coach, consultant, and author who has helped more than 500 people develop and grow side-hustles.
- She's found that she sees some commonalities among the people who can successfully transition their side hustle into a full-time career.
- Among those common traits are the determination to execute, the willingness to be decisive, and comfort being seen and building an audience.
- Eoghan McCabe is the CEO and cofounder of Intercom, one of the fastest growing startups in Silicon Valley.
- Intercom offers services that help companies communicate with their customers.
- McCabe and his partners formed Intercom after being inspired by the personalized service they got at a Dublin coffee shop.
- Intercom is now offering chatbots that can handle customer service.
- One of the best pieces of entrepreneurship advice has to do with hiring top talent.
- Instead of looking for people who can do the job today, look for people who will still be successful two or three years from now.
- That's according to Cesar Carvalho, the cofounder and CEO of corporate fitness program Gympass.
- When he first started Gympass, he hired people with the skills for a small startup, rather than for the large company it became.
- Hinge founder and CEO Justin McLeod tells new entrepreneurs to be both naive and flexible.
- It's important to stay true to your vision, while also taking into account criticisms of your business and changes in the market.
- McLeod learned this lesson firsthand: He believed in Hinge when no one else did, but he also had to make significant changes to the product years later.
- First-time CEO Daniela Corrente said hiring a business coach was the smartest move she's made since founding the personal-finance app Reel.
- Business coaches help executives grow their companies and clarify their visions.
- They're part of a growing industry, but Corrente said hiring one can carry a stigma.
- Taking on too many tasks can drain your energy and negatively impact your career.
- Here, author Charyn Pfeuffer describes how learning to set boundaries in her work and life allowed her to be happier and more successful.
- Most of us try to avoid tough conversations, but the most successful people tackle awkward subjects head on.
- A professor who studied 20,000 startup founders said "going ugly" and addressing uncomfortable issues can help you both in the business world and in romantic relationships.
- From planning for the departure of a company's cofounder to drawing up a prenuptial agreement, "going ugly" tends to benefit all parties in the long run.
Every day in the US, women start about 849 new businesses.
And over the past 20 years, the number of women-owned firms has increased 114%.
You could herald these developments as signs that the world of American entrepreneurship is, finally, becoming more open to women. But the statistics obscure a more troubling trend.
For many women business owners, starting a company is a way to escape the often-unmeetable demands of corporate life. But more women becoming business owners isn’t necessarily good for the economy — or for the women themselves.
Women often start businesses out of necessity
A 2017 report from the National Women’s Business Council uses the term “necessity entrepreneurship” to explain what’s happening among women business owners.
Typically, that term describes people who start businesses out of economic need — but the NWBC proposes expanding the definition to include non-economic factors as well. Based on interviews with women business owners, the report highlights workplace discrimination and the fact that childrearing and household management typically fall to women.
The American workplace may be especially inhospitable to women. Consider a 2014 PayPal survey of women business owners in the US, China, France, and Mexico: In France and Mexico, 61% and 66% of women said they wanted to be entrepreneurs to have pride in themselves. In the United States, 55% said they wanted better work-life balance.
Having more autonomy is a key motivator
Morra Aarons-Mele has researched the reasons women start their own businesses, and has found that women frequently say they did so to gain more control over their time. In fact, that was part of the reason why she started her own companies: Women Online and The Mission List.
It wasn’t so much the desire to be the next Elon Musk that motivated her — “I just wanted to make a living,” she told me, and “I just never wanted to go to an office again for 10 hours a day.”
Yet in a 2014 Harvard Business Review article, Aarons-Mele writes that “the economic impact of most women’s small businesses may not be what’s best for women, their families or the economy in the long run.” She adds that “women-owned businesses are disproportionately in industries where the median receipts are less than $225,000 (and businesses with receipts less than $100,000 are more likely to fail).”
On the individual level, most women have a hard time replacing the salary they were earning in the corporate world, Aarons-Mele writes.
That’s why Aarons-Mele suspects that many women would in fact prefer to stay in companies — provided they earned more money, had more autonomy, and saw greater leadership opportunities.
Disappointingly, and perhaps surprisingly, gender discrimination may be a problem in the entrepreneurial world as well. As Business Insider France’s Elisabeth Hu reported, enterprises founded or co-founded by women receive about $935,000 in investments on average, while those founded by men receive an average of about $2.1 million.
However, Hu reported, for every dollar of funding, startups founded by women generate 78 cents, compared to 31 cents for startups founded by men.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic started teaching MBA students more than 15 years ago.
Back then, all his students wanted to work for corporate giants like Goldman Sachs, IBM, and Unilever.
A decade later, Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon were the big draws.
But now, graduates aren't flocking to the corporate world at all, whether IBM or Amazon. When I interviewed him by phone in July, for a story about the dangers of "entrepreneurship porn," he said of his students that today, "the vast majority tell me, 'You know, I'm going to be a startup guy. I'm launching something. I'm going to create the next big X, Y, Z."
His observations are anecdotal, so it's hard to draw any general conclusions. And data on the kinds of jobs MBA students want, as opposed to the jobs they ultimately land, is scarce. The data that is available suggests that technology is the fastest growing sector for MBA graduates, The Economist reported.
But some research does suggest that graduates of top business programs, and programs geared toward entrepreneurship, are more likely to become entrepreneurs than they were in the past.
Graduates from top MBA programs for entrepreneurs may be most likely to start their own companies
Business Insider previously reported on a study of over 30,000 Wharton graduates, which found that more than 7% of 2013 graduates started their own company right away. That was five times as many as in 2007. (Interestingly, the study also found that Wharton MBAs who become entrepreneurs tend to be happier than grads who pursue other careers.)
On the other hand, a Bloomberg survey, cited on Quartz, found that among 118 international and US MBA programs in 2016, just 3% of recent graduates at the median school started new businesses. But at Babson, where the MBA program focuses on entrepreneurship, that number is 19%. And at Stanford, which has classes and a coworking space for entrepreneurs, it's 16.4%.
Wharton, Stanford, and Babson are also included on US News & World Report's 2018 ranking of the best MBA programs for entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs can't agree on whether an MBA is necessary
As for whether an MBA is necessary — or even helpful — for aspiring entrepreneurs, opinions differ.
Jon Staff, the CEO and founder of Getaway, a company that designs and rents out tiny houses, graduated from Harvard Business School in 2016. On the HBS blog, he wrote that getting an MBA was critical to becoming an entrepreneur: Aside from the educational component, he says 60% of the seed capital he raised while at HBS was the result of meetings he wouldn't have had if he hadn't been a student there.
Meanwhile, in a Financial Times Q&A, Brent Hoberman, executive chairman at Founders Factory, Founders Forum, and Firstminute Capital, says most MBA programs "are struggling to adapt fast enough to meet changing circumstances and demand."
He adds, "Some of the most important qualities in an entrepreneur are tenacity, determination and an ability to embrace uncertainty and risk. Business schools can't teach that."
Rebekah Campbell is a serial entrepreneur having founded four successful businesses, ranging from music to retail.
She launched her first venture at the age of 22 — a music company that went on to represent Evermore, Operator Please, Lisa Mitchell, Matt Corby, and more.
"It kind of unexpectedly became a business," says Campbell, who started managing bands out of a passion for music.
"At the time I was 22-years-old and lots of my friends worked at record companies.
"I remember at the time being really jealous of them because working at a record company gave you all these really cool benefits like money coming into your bank account every fortnight," she joked.
"You've got a business card and a fancy title that became a part of your identity … and it seemed like they had a lot of security in this stable job.
"In contrast, being a band manager, I was out there hustling, trying to convince bands to let me manage them, trying to get them gigs … all to try to scrap together enough money to pay for my rent every week.
"It felt like it was really risky. My parents at the time were not very happy about the career direction I was on and thought I should get a stable job."
Campbell likened such a career to an escalator: you get on, ride it to the top where you make it as "a GM or you have a C in front of your job title … and then you retire, and make room for the rest".
But as it turned out, the music industry was one of the first sectors disrupted by technology, dramatically reducing the number of companies and jobs available, and therefore putting the friends she once envied out of work.
"A lot of my friends really struggled because they had this idea that their career was going to look like, and had this expectation that they were going to progress up this escalator. Suddenly they were kicked off and didn't have much of an idea about how to pick themselves up or know what to do next," Campbell said.
"Whereas I had a lot more security. Even though I wasn't particularly wealthy, I was self-sufficient in that there wasn't really a chance that I was going to be made redundant.
"That really made me start thinking about how should we think about ourselves … and they way we develop our careers."
A few years, and startups later, Campbell has launched Zambesi — a platform that connects leaders at high growth technology companies with other organisations and individuals looking to learn.
Experts from companies including Canva, Showpo, Atlassian, Hipages, Google, Facebook and more, are already offering workshops to share their skills. Sessions average about $600 each.
"They're all people who are doing it now, so they can share insights that are super cutting-edge," says Campbell, which is a benefit at a time when advancing technology means new processes and information are being developed every day.
From 'employee' to 'entrepreneur'
She says this shift in the workforce also means people need to start thinking of themselves as "entrepreneurs" rather than "employees".
"That doesn't mean everybody is going to necessarily start a business. But it means everybody is the CEO/founder of their own business, which is their own career."
She says people should be thinking of themselves as a product that's continually evolving and looking for new opportunities. People should also be considering their personal brand and network.
"What are we known for being an expert in? What are our culture and values as a person, and how is that reflected in our online presence? Who is going to refer you?" she says.
Campbell's advice, reflects a recent Business Insider article in which experts say too many people suffer from a "delusional belief" that a career should follow a linear path.
Psychology researcher Tania Luna and the Weight Watchers International executive Jordan Cohen say that modern employees suffering from their belief in the "career myth" are being held back from success.
They argue that it's no longer the case that employees can expect incremental chances to advance up the career ladder, rather people need to embrace uncertainty by changing roles, or even industries, without a final destination in mind.
"When we envision a career, we imagine a direct path with a final destination," the authors wrote. "And not long ago, this concept was useful."
They added: "This vision of career growth no longer matches reality. We no longer need to be good at predicting the future; we now have to succeed when the future is unpredictable."
But that doesn't mean taking the jump is easy.
Tame the mammoth
Expert360 co-founder and CEO Bridget Loudon says "it's super scary".
She had a successful career at management consulting firm Bain & Company, when she quit her job to launch her business.
"I actually had one idea, but that was terrible and I won't go into that, but I left Bain and became a freelancer to order to pay for this other startup that I was doing," she says.
It wasn't until she realised how difficult it was to be a freelancer that she saw a gap in the market, and launched Expert360.
Despite her subsequent success, she says leaving the security of a stable job "is always scary for everyone no matter who you are or what generation you are".
"There's this really awesome article called Taming the Mammoth on a blog called 'What Wait But Why'," she says.
"It's this concept that there's always this woolly mammoth that when we're thinking about making decisions in our life that's actually saying things like 'no, don't quit everyone's looking at you.' And we all have those mammoth in our life, that we think 'what will they think of us,' when making a decision.
"I always used to think about Bain partner Simon Henderson, what would he think of me?
"We all have a mammoth – for some of us it's our mum or dad, and I think that making that leap is seeing who your mammoths are … and thinking 'I see I'm thinking about what you think of me, but actually I'm going to think about what I want to do'. And actually no one really cares, particularly Simon Henderson, about what I do."
Take the jump
Hiam Sakakini, former head of leadership at Google APAC, is familiar with this career change terror.
She also choose to jump off the linear career path into a venture of her own.
"As a veteran of an organisation that has literally changed the world by democratising information, and that infiltrates your every cell with a new way of thinking and behaving, I can tell you that leaving Google felt … terrifying," she says.
"The culture of this company made you fall madly in love with going to work every day.
"For me, it was a sense of collaboration, camaraderie, exploration, experimentation, fun and accomplishment. Doing 'sh-t that matters' kept me in that wonderful place for 10 years. A fifth of my working life was gone in what felt like nanoseconds."
She wondered whether she could manage without the comfortable salary, great benefits, and luxurious work surroundings.
But when she heard people talking about "the good old days" she likened it to "a couple whose relationship had gone stale," and knew it was now or never.
There were "heart-stopping moments of pure panic" but she made the jump and "starting my own business was in fact the smartest decision I've made for the times we are in".
"The writing is on the wall in terms of large scale layoffs happening right now due to new models of working, the effects of automation and the globalisation of the workforce," she says.
"An executive assistant can be replaced by a virtual assistant at a fraction of the cost. A website designer can either be hired for very little on Upwork or an online website-builder makes it easy for a five year old to build a website these days.
"The effects of automation on the jobs market in Australia means five million jobs will be automated in 2025 in Australia — that's 40% of jobs."
Sakakini says automation will change the very fabric of how we live, and as a result full-time permanent roles will be very few and far between.
"At some point in your career, you will need to think about how you will commoditise your valuable knowledge, expertise and skills in the free market," she says.
"In other words, become a freelancer. You will need to learn the art and science not only of consulting, but pricing, packaging and selling your services, building a client portfolio, navigating tax, contracts and employment laws.
"Take a deep breath now … and build."
When Hanna and Mark Lim appeared on "Shark Tank" in 2012, they knew that the product they were pitching could seem pretty generic.
The Lims' company, Lollacup, produced safer sippy cups for kids, made in the US to ensure safety. And while they understood why that concept was revolutionary, they also understood that other people might not see it that way at first.
"We were launching a sippy cup, which is sort of ubiquitous for parents," Hanna said.
So to gain an edge in front of the investors, the Lims made it a priority to tell their story.
When one of the sharks, Lori Greiner, asked to hear about the Lims' background, Hanna explained that she and Mark were middle-school sweethearts, and that they'd been dating since 1992. Since then, they'd married and had two daughters.
The Lims also shared the inspiration behind Lollacup: their frustration finding a safe and hassle-free sippy cup for their daughter. In other words: why the two of them were perfectly positioned to sell the best sippy cup out there.
Ultimately, the Lims landed a deal with Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec: $100,000 for 40% of their company. Lollacup is now called Lollaland, and has since expanded into more products for infants and toddlers.
Today, the Lims make it a priority to share the same story they told on the "Shark Tank" stage with a wider audience. "Our customers want to know that it's two parents that were the brainchild behind this and that we put everything we have into it," Hanna said.
Customers today want more information about the companies they support
Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac have a similar philosophy. The founders of Cousins Maine Lobster also appeared on "Shark Tank" in 2012, and they made sure to paint a picture for the sharks of what it was like growing up eating lobster with their family in Maine. ("You're standing alongside the Atlantic Ocean, smelling that salty air," Tselikis said during their pitch.)
Tselikis and Lomac wound up winning $55,000 from Barbara Corcoran, in exchange for 15% of their company.
They've continued to make it a priority to tell their company's origin story. The Cousins Maine Lobster website features a photo of the founders as kids, in Maine with their grandfather, holding a lobster.
For Tselikis and Lomac, their story is a way to not only win over investors, but also to make sure their franchisees run the business just like they would. All their franchisees are sent to Maine, where they spend time on lobster boats and hold live lobsters in their hands.
"With our lobster, it's not just having the best product in the world," Tselikis said. "It's telling them our story, because our customers, just like our franchisees, want to get on board with something they have an emotional connection to; they want to get behind a movement."
The founders of Lollaland and Cousins Maine Lobster agree that sharing your company's story is more important than ever these days — and that too many entrepreneurs overlook that piece of running a business.
"Now more than ever," Mark Lim said, "especially with information on the Internet being so accessible, down to the point where you can actually look up the founder and CEO of every product that you buy, I think it's a huge part of being able to connect with consumers to just be yourself and be authentic."
Tselikis agreed: "People care about what's going into their body, where it comes from and why, the story behind the business," he said. "That stuff matters more and more."
Still, he said, "Young entrepreneurs sometimes miss their story, who they are and they don't develop it well enough."
Whether it's a lobster shack or a local coffee shop, "it's nice when you go into a business and you do get a really clean snapshot of who the person is and what they stand for," Tselikis added. "It makes it a lot easier and more fun to support."
At the start of every semester, Noam Wasserman asks his students a question: How important is passion for the "entrepreneurial magic?"
Wasserman is the founding director of the Founder Central Initiative at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business, and he's noticed his students consistently buy into common misconceptions around successful entrepreneurship.
"We get a resounding, 'Passion is critical. Passion is going to be the main ingredient that is going to enable me to go and succeed as a founder,'" Wasserman told me. Then he presents them with a case study "that drives home to them that passion can become your peril."
Specifically, Wasserman said, passion can mislead you into thinking you're readier to start a company than you are, or make you believe that your idea is more valuable than it is.
Preparedness can be more important than passion
Many people in the startup world describe passion as a key element of founding — and running — a company. Consider "Shark Tank" investor Lori Greiner's observation: "I've seen great entrepreneurs convince others to buy or invest in things that they would never have under any other circumstances, but for their passion."
Yet both research and experience suggest that too much passion can backfire. Not only can it lead to ill-informed business decisions, but it can also be unappealing to potential investors.
The authors of a 2009 study published in the journal Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research surmise that displays of enthusiasm and commitment that come off as inauthentic can make the angel investor less interested in the opportunity. Seeming prepared when you meet with angel investors could be more important than seeming passionate.
Another study of entrepreneurs' pitches to venture capitalists, described in The Harvard Business Review, found that a calm demeanor was generally more convincing than unbridled enthusiasm.
Starting a company because you're passionate about the idea may also be downright impractical. As entrepreneur and small-business expert Carol Roth writes on Entrepreneur, passion can make you somewhat self-centered. "Businesses are borne out of a market need," she writes. "It doesn't start with you."
Passion often follows the effort an entrepreneur puts in
All this isn't to say that you shouldn't be excited about the prospect of starting a company. But the relationship between passion and entrepreneurial performance might be more complex than we've been led to believe.
A 2014 study published in The Academy of Management Journal found that passion results from the effort the entrepreneur puts in and the progress they make.
Or, as Ramit Sethi, bestselling author of "I Will Teach You to Be Rich,"has said, "You get passionate about something when you get good at it." Instead of waiting for your calling to materialize before you, follow the things you're interested in and skilled at and eventually, you might become passionate about them.
Alli Webb is the cofounder and visionary behind Drybar, the popular blowout salon that took a regional trend mainstream. At Drybar women can get their hair blow-dried into a signature style, without a haircut or color.
"I feel like I'm so grateful and proud for what we have built. So I think the fact that we've brought Drybar to so many women, I know it sounds hokey, and probably maybe a little silly, but the fact that we kind of enhance women's lives," Webb told us in an episode of Business Insider's podcast "This Is Success."
Webb started styling hair when she was a kid, and worked in the industry for 20 years before settling down in Los Angeles. She thought she wanted to be a full-time stay-at-home mom, but after a while she started to get a little stir crazy. So she started the small business that turned into Drybar, going home to home and delivering affordable, professional-grade blowouts.
Drybar is now a multimillion-dollar business with more than 100 locations across North America. Webb founded Drybar with the help of her brother, Michael Landau, and they've become a resource to fellow entrepreneurs on a podcast of their own, "Raising the Bar."
Listen to the full episode here:
Subscribe to "This Is Success" on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or your favorite podcast app. Check out previous episodes with:
Transcript edited for clarity.
Alli Webb: I basically threw a blow-dryer and all my tools in a duffel bag, and my husband made me this one-page website; it was called Straight At Home, which is the name of my little mobile business. And I started posting it all over town and saying: "Hey, I'm a stay-at-home mom. I'm a longtime hairstylist. I'll come over and blow out your hair while your baby's sleeping and charge $40." The way I came up with that was two twenties seemed really easy for everybody.
So I started this mobile business, and it was during that time — I'd say I operated that business for about a year — and I would always ask my clients, "When I can't come to your home, what do you do?" Because $40 to go to someone's home is very inexpensive for blowouts — now it is, back then it was, that was 10 years ago. So what I was learning from operating this business is that I was getting very busy very fast. I was only charging $40. I was running around town like a crazy person, blow-drying all my mommy friends, and I realized when I couldn't go to their house and I'd say, "What do you do when I say, 'No, I can't come'?" They're, like, "Well, I either skip it altogether or go to the discount chain down the street where the experience isn't great. " Or they go to their cut-and-color salon, where they're overpaying for a blowout and they're getting pressured to get cut and color and whatever else happens.
So that's when I realized, "Wow, there's no option for women at an affordable, nice place, where there's no pressure and it doesn't smell like perm." That just didn't exist. Nowhere — that wasn't a thing. If you went to the Fantastic Sam's or if you're in New York City, the Jean Louis David, there's those in-and-out places that are cheap and fast, but the experience isn't great. You're sitting next to a kid getting your hair cut, and it's just like, blah. I felt like I needed to turn my mobile business into this brick-and-mortar.
Feloni: Would that have been a crazy idea at the time, a place just for getting blowouts?
Webb: Totally, because this was in 2008 and it didn't exist. Now they're popping up everywhere; we have 100 locations. The category has grown tremendously. We basically created a category, on accident. I didn't mean to do that; I just really wanted a place like I had dreamt of as a kid. A place where women could go for a blowout. It was a very simple, not-thought-out idea. It was something that totally didn't exist back then.
The benefits — and trials — of a family business
Feloni: Had you ever done anything entrepreneurial before?
Webb: Yeah, for sure. I mean, my brother, Michael Landau, who's my business partner, we've always been super close. He's three years older than me, I should mention, and before I actually took the plunge and went to beauty school, I was still trying to figure out my life mode. I lived in New York City. I was working in fashion. We were both working for Nicole Miller, who was a big designer; this was like 20 years ago. We decide to move back to South Florida, where we grew up, and open Nicole Miller boutiques. I was like 21, 22 at that point; my brother was like 25. It was so not the right thing, and even though my parents had clothing stores, so that also seemed like the natural thing for us. But I knew we almost killed each other. We were fighting like cats and dogs, we were both so young and inexperienced and stupid.
Feloni: Why were you fighting so much?
Webb: We were just so young and inexperienced. We were in the wrong thing, and so we were kind of driving each other crazy, because there was all this underlying tension of we're both not happy in our lives. Which is one of our biggest mantras at Drybar. Life is too short to work someplace lame. I kind of joked that Michael was always playing golf and I was running the stores. So I was probably a little bitter about that. He might differ. But honestly, I was the manager of the stores. I was running the stores. It was a women-focused kind of business, and he felt a little uncomfortable in the stores, too. He did all the buying and the back end, which is similar to how our partnership is now with Drybar. But it just wasn't a good fit for either one of us.
Feloni: It's interesting. If you had, before Drybar, this one entrepreneurial experience, and it was with your brother, and it went terribly, why did you —
Webb: Do it again?
Webb: Well, my parents asked the same question. When we told them we were going back into business together, there had been a lot of time, obviously, between that, we'd both grown a lot. I'd gotten married, I had kids, and Michael was also, by the way, such a big supporter of me going to beauty school when I decided to leave Nicole Miller and do that. Which, by the way, my parents were not, my parent were like, "What? You want to go to cosmetology school?" Of course, I couldn't foresee Drybar happening, but I felt like I'd go back to New York, and I'd do runway, and editorial, and I'd find this really glamorous life around hair. And my brother saw that vision too, but my parents didn't, and Michael was a really big supporter of that. And there were a lot of really intense conversations about it. When I went to get Michael on board, and I remember saying to my brother, "It can't be like it was." He knew that and felt that too. Once we had those conversations about this being very different, and it couldn't be like it was, and a lot of the things we did to push each other's buttons, we vowed to not do again.
Feloni: Can you give me example of maybe one of those conversations where you were, as you were saying, figuring out how to not push each other's buttons? Because I feel like that could apply to any cofounders working together.
Webb: Everyone probably has different buttons. It's learning how to talk to each other in a respectful manner. More than anything, though, it is the sense of respect that we have for each other. You can just feel that when somebody respects you and somebody doesn't. When someone really wants to hear your opinion and wants your thoughts, versus somebody who's just kind of dialing it in and you feel like it's not genuine. They're feeling like they're asking you because they have to ask you, versus wanting to really, genuinely have your opinion. There's so much back-and-forth, it's such a two-way street with Michael and I on that because I know he really values my opinion and he knows I really value his opinion. That's why the partnership works. It also goes to Cam, my husband, you know. We defer to everything creatively to him, and have such massive respect for what he does. And vice versa; he's not trying to get into the business side of stuff, and neither one of them are trying to get in and control the hair piece of the business.
And the beauty of it, and the part that's the most personally satisfying to me, is that my brother had always been kind of the overachiever of the family. He always landed on his feet and was always going to be successful. I was a little, like, the late bloomer, as my parents called me. "What the Hell is Alli going to do with her life?" So to be able to find this kind of success that we have found together is obviously very rewarding for me. The fact that I had the expertise in this business that I was going to do with my brother gave me that — not leg up — but I would say level of respect from my brother because he knew that I knew this business, the hair-salon business, like the back of my hand, and he knew nothing about it. Him and Cameron are both bald — no business being in hair.
Feloni: I was going to say that. Two of your cofounders, bald men. I don't know if it would better if they had '80s Iron Maiden hair, but still.
Webb: Well, my husband's really envious of guys with really good hair, because he doesn't have any, and neither does my brother. I mean, my brother took some time to come to terms with losing his hair, but then they started shaving and it looks cool, and it's like a big guy trend, so it's all good.
Feloni: Did that ever become a problem if they can't experience the product that they're helping build?
Webb: Well, that's funny that you say that, because it is. I don't know if you've ever personally walked into a Drybar, but it's definitely like — it feels a little bit like a woman's boudoir. Guys, I think, feel uncomfortable if they're in there for too long, because it's like a bunch of women getting their hair done. That's how my brother and husband feel. Cameron has had to be in the shop a lot more because we shoot a lot of videos and stuff.
Feloni: Even though they helped design it?
Webb: Yeah, because it's crawling with women, and they feel really uncomfortable. Most guys that I talk to tell me that. Not all, but a lot of guys feel that way. So, yeah, no. They really can't experience the product. But they watch it. If you sat in Drybar for long enough, you would see over and over and over and over again, the way a woman comes in with her hair in a bun, and her hat, and she's very serious, and focused. Then the way she is when she's walking out, there's this pep in her step, and this confidence, and she's looking at every mirror. You watch that, and you see that, and you're like, "Wow, we really captured something here." And they can feel that, too.
Feloni: Were you ever afraid, or are you ever afraid, of when you're working with family, especially your husband and your brother, if there's a business disagreement, that it could seep into your personal lives?
Webb: Oh, yes. That has happened. When you run and operate your own business, it's really hard to draw that line between personal and business. We're always all talking about the business. It's just the fabric of our lives, really. There's definitely been fights and disagreements, but it goes back to that level of respect we have for each other, that we trust, and that there's an innate trust that's there. I think you don't always have to be just with your family, and a partnership with your family to have that, but having somebody you really trust that feels like family is crucial.
Feloni: Is there a moment that you could point to, either in the early days or even as it was scaling, where one of those were maybe threatening a personal relationship but you figured it out?
Webb: Yeah, I mean in the very early days I was kind of the conduit between Cameron, and Michael I would be sending — this is very early days — I would send Michael something that Cameron had designed and been like, "Hey, what do you think of this?" Then Michael would be like, "Well, I don't really like blah, blah, blah, blah." I'd say, "Well, Michael doesn't like this." And Cameron would be like, "What the f---. Why doesn't he like that? It's so stupid." And I would be like, "I don't know, I'm just the in-between here." It was a bad place to be. Finally, it sounds so simple in retrospect, but finally I was like, "You guys just talk to each other I don't want to be in the middle of this anymore." Then, once they did that ... And they were like my brother-in-law, they were already family and friends. But it forced them to stop using me as this go-between of this back-and-forth, because that's never a good idea. For them to talk directly, there was a much greater level, they're not technically related, so there was a little more respect, I guess, between them, versus just saying whatever they wanted to me, because I was the sister and the wife. So, that was a lesson we learned really early. Then what happened, it was kind of magical, because Cameron's such a great designer, and marketer, and my brother is such an amazing marketer. So, when the two of them would get together and talk about things, it would get even better. It was like a blessing to actually get them to talk to one another versus talking through me, which was not a good idea. Which we learned the hard way. That's why the partnership works so well.
Feloni: Staying in different lanes.
Webb: Yeah. Having strengths, and knowing your strengths, and your weaknesses. What you're good at, and what you're not, I think, is incredibly important for any business, no matter what it is. I feel like just how Drybar is built on this premise of doing one thing and doing it really well. I think that I have a lot of different skill sets, but my main skill, and best, and highest use with this brand, is making sure the hair looks and feels a certain way in the training of the hair stylists, the customer service, how the shop's run. That's all my stuff. That's the stuff I know and understand. Michael is dealing with finding leases, and negotiating terms and all the sh-- I hate. And Cameron, I didn't really understand branding until we started building Drybar, and Cameron was so adamant about everything being yellow. I always tell the story our first Valentine's day, the shop was open, I wanted to bring in pink flowers, because it's Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day, it's pink and red. He was like, "No the flowers have to be yellow."
Feloni: Go against branding.
Webb: Yeah. Everything has to be yellow, and gray and white. I slowly, but surely, learned that from him. And I learned so much from my brother about figuring out spaces, and learning how to raise money, and all those things. So, we've all taught each other so much about each other's areas, but there is still that level of respect of like, "This is what you do. This is what I do." So, we divide and conquer.
Turning a salon into a chain
Feloni: Then, at what point did you realize that you didn't want to just have one location that could serve your community, but this could actually be something that you could turn into a business that just could scale?
Webb: It was such a roll of the dice. It was in 2010 that we first opened the doors, it was in the middle of a recession, and that means everybody thought we were crazy. I remember we were opening in this space in Brentwood Gardens, which we're still in today. The shopping center was dead, and I remember my brother and I going there during construction, there was nobody in the center, and my brother was like, "How is this going to work? There's nobody here. Who's going to come?" I was like, "No, I think it's going to work." And I'd had the support from the women from my mobile blow-dry business, who I felt like were going to come, and we would figure that out. That's what I was kind of hoping. But it was scary, and I had people telling me that every business that had been in the location we were opening had failed and closed. So it was a little scary in the beginning. That really just made us feel like we really had to bring the marketing and figure out how to get the word out, and make sure people knew about this, and hope they ... The goal of the business then, which is still the goal of the business today, is doing enough women, volume. Having enough women come in. Back then, we thought it was only going to be 30 to 40 blowouts a day, which would be an awful day now. We do more like 100 women, give or take, a day. We very quickly realized once we opened Brentwood, and it was so mob from the get-go, It was like being the cool club that nobody can get into. Which isn't great for business. We wanted to get as many women in as we could because we wanted to do the business.
Feloni: But at least there was hype.
Webb: There was so much hype, and there was so much demand. I remember women coming in since we were in Brentwood, women would come in from Beverly Hills, and the Brentwood women would be like, "Why are these Beverly Hills women here? Get them their own shop." I remember calling my brother, who was at the time in the very early days still running his business, and I was like, "Mike, you've got to find us more locations." I couldn't even come up for air. I was literally in the store for the first six months, seven days week. I didn't leave. I could not do anything else but focus on getting more stylists, because we didn't have enough stylists, because we totally underestimated the demand. Making sure the blowouts were good, the customer service was good. I was doing blowouts all day long; it was crazy. And I still had two little kids at home, and a husband, and all that. It was so nuts in the beginning. I was like, "Mike you have to find us more locations. We cannot meet the demand." In the early days we used to have walk-ins or pop-ins welcome on the front window. We were like, "We got to take that down."
Feloni: No more, yeah.
Webb: Women would come in and they're like, "Well, you said you can just pop in." We were like, "Yup, we were wrong about that." Because everybody was booking versus the walk-in nature of the business that we thought it might be, which it turned out not to be. So, it was a lot of learnings in those early days. Yeah, we opened that second location within six months of Brentwood, and Studio City, and now we have 100. It's like, I don't know how we got there. It's been a lot.
Feloni: Just even you speaking personally, aside from your cofounders. The seed of this idea started because —
Webb: I have curly hair.
Feloni: Yeah. Because you have curly hair, and because you just felt there was something that you felt was missing that you needed to create something. At what point did it become your desire became something different? Something bigger?
Webb: I feel like once we opened that first shop, and I saw the response that we were getting from women, from the press, from everywhere, I was like, "Wow. We are really on to something." It was really invigorating, and I felt very empowered and I felt like, "Wow, I have to bring this to women everywhere. We have to figure this out and keep going." It was a total life change. My life totally turned upside down and I was traveling all the time. I went to the first 50 store openings. One of the things that I'm most proud of is the fact that we have created all these jobs. Also, kind of bridged this gap between when you come out of a beauty school, the typical path is to work in a hair salon, then be someone's assistant for a year, or two while you're learning and honing your skills, you're getting fed clients. Drybar has bridged that gap where, we can't always take everybody right out of beauty school, sometimes they're not ready, But it's definitely like, middle road for stylists to go, and be able to have this job at Drybar, which, becomes a lead generator for them working at their cut and color salons, and gets them comfortable without doing anything permanent to a client. You're not cutting or coloring, so it's this great way for them to get more and more comfortable with the business. They're doing blowouts anyways, assisting for somebody. I mean, there's so many things that I'm proud of, but that's something that I feel I wished Drybar had existed when I came out of beauty school. It has served so many hairstylists, who will then go on to work at a full-service salon and then come back to Drybar when they're slow and pick up some shifts. So it's a really fluid system. So it's good.
Feloni: Yeah. When you were starting off, you were lucky enough to have a resource with Michael, where he was able to have 250 grand for the seed money for it.
Feloni: Do you think if you didn't have that resource, that you would have found a way to get this going?
Webb: One hundred percent. I mean, I think that I was certainly lucky that I had him there, but there's so many ways to raise money. Which now I, on the other side, know and understand, that whether it's friends and family, getting a small-business loan ... As someone who's starting a business as a budding entrepreneur, you have to tap all your resources. Even places that you don't think, you never know who would be willing to invest in you, or who knows somebody who would be willing to invest in you, or partner with you. You have to ask a lot of people and really ... I tell people that all the time. You probably, within your personal friend network, there's a lawyer who can help you with all the legal stuff for a small percentage of the company, or whatever it is. There's a lot of ways you can get really creative with raising money, finding partners to get to that next level.
Feloni: There are some entrepreneurs I've talked to where they said that, in their early days, they were driven by a kind of desperation. That they were flat broke or just had nothing. This was their only shot.
Feloni: If Drybar had flopped, would you have had something to fall back on?
Webb: Yeah, I think that I always felt if Drybar didn't work, we were all pretty smart, capable people; we would either find a job, or, yeah, I'd just find something else to do. I have this tangible skill: I know how to do hair. I could always go work at a salon. That was always something I could do. Even a fallback. Even though that's not what I wanted to do. I tell people who want to start their own business that too. Even if, God forbid, it doesn't work, you can go get a job if you have to. You're a really smart, capable person. You're not going to die; this I not the end of the road; this is just a bump in the road. You get up, you figure it out, and maybe this isn't the right thing. I get asked that question a lot, but I always felt like we were all going to survive if this didn't work, we were going to lose some money, which would really suck, but we were going to pick ourselves up and figure out what was next.
Feloni: What was driving you? If there wasn't this desperation?
Webb: It was passion for this thing that I felt didn't exist that ... I kind of inadvertently stumbled upon. We didn't invent blowouts. Blowouts have been around forever. But to discover this opportunity and this huge hole in the market, I think that was very exciting to discover something new and exciting. I think that's kind of what gets me excited, is being able to build something from the ground up. Or take something that exists and make it really great. That's really what we did with Drybar. I just wanted women to be able to go someplace and have great hair in a cool space that wasn't that expensive. That was my vision; I think that's what kind of kept me going. And then to see it actually work, and women love it, it was like, "Oh!" I just wanted to keep doing it again and again.
Feloni: As this concept was scaling, at some point you bring in an outside CEO to start running it. How did that feel?
Webb: That was not an easy thing, and I think along every step of our growth that you need to know when you need help and understanding things that you've never done, and not only that, but things that you don't necessarily want to do. For me, again, the marketing, and the hair, and the customer service, that stuff was what I wanted to focus on, and not payroll. Nobody wants me to focus on payroll. We all recognized the things that we were good at and what we weren't. So, we little by little started bringing somebody to help us grown the business, and our business was growing so incredible fast. It wasn't until we raised some real money, with Castanea, that again, 10 or 11 stores, that they kind were urging, Castanea was urging us to bring in a professional CEO, and I was like, "What? We don't need a professional CEO; we're doing a great job. Why would we want to change it, nothing's broken, the business is on fire, let's not do that." I was very bratty about that. And my brother was the CEO at the time. So, I also felt like, Michael's doing such a great job, we have this great partnership, and I felt like, if we brought somebody else in from the outside, it was going to change the culture, and I was very against it. And my brother was less skeptical about the idea. I think he recognized the fact that he'd never been a CEO before, he'd taken the company pretty far, but it may be time for somebody who actually had experience with this level of management that it would require. So, we met with a bunch of different potential CEOs. A lot of them were amazing, they had huge salaries, and I was like, "How much do we have to pay these people?" I was like, "This whole idea, I do not like this." But it wasn't until we met John Heffner, who's our CEO now, and he had come from OPI and he'd been in the beauty world forever. It's funny, and I always tell this story, because he's this 6-2, as corporate-looking as you come, and I remember seeing him from across the room, and I was like, "No. No way." We need someone cool. This guy isn't cool.
Feloni: This is like corporate America.
Webb: Shame on me. I judged him so much by the way he looked, but, after we spoke to him for 20 minutes, I was like, "Oh my God, I love this guy." He worked in other founder-led organizations, so he really understood the dynamic of working with a founder, and that he couldn't just come in and overhaul everything, and change everything. That's not what he was proposing. I remember him making this analogy of me, Michael, and him being a three-legged stool. Without the three of us, everything falls apart. I was like, "That's a good one." Because I felt like that was what we needed, was somebody who was going to come in and partner with us, versus someone who's going to come in, like this ivory tower, and change everything. I didn't feel like anything needed to be changed. I think that we needed management, and we needed systems, and things that Michael and I weren't necessarily good at. But we didn't want anybody to change the culture, and to change the core of what the business was. Which, John didn't want to do, and didn't do, and hasn't done. He has brought in a level of management that we just didn't have.
Linking success with the customer experience
Feloni: Through this all, what do you think the biggest challenge that you've overcome has been?
Webb: I think for me personally, it is that letting go of a lot of the decision-making, and going from making every single decision, to giving up a lot of that.
Feloni: And you were even personally training for the technique, right?
Webb: Yeah. I personally trained a lot, then I trained other people how to train, and that has grown, and grown, and grown.
Feloni: So, basically you've learned how to let go of certain things, and just focus on what you can specifically do.
Webb: Yeah, totally. I think that I feel like I have a little bit more of a bird's-eye view of the business, versus being in the weeds like I used to be. Where I still weigh in on a lot of things, but I don't ultimately make the decision on everything anymore, the way I used to. There are some hard-and-fast things that are just me, but there are a lot of other really smart people at our organization now who we've empowered to make a lot of decisions. The business couldn't be what it is without that. I feel like there was years ago. I would be a bottleneck. We were progressing so slow because everybody was waiting for me to sign of on something, or Michael to sign off of something, or Cameron. And you know, it's like we've had to get past that a little bit. If I'm being totally honest, there's times that I don't agree with all the decisions that are made, and that is a really hard pill to swallow. But it's like, we have to keep going, and we have to learn from our mistakes, and we have to look back and say, "You know what, we should have done this differently, but here we are." I think that's all part of the learning and growing process.
Feloni: At this point, how do you personally define success?
Webb: That is a good question. I feel like I'm so grateful and proud for what we have built. So I think the fact that we've brought Drybar to so many women, I know it sounds hokey, and probably maybe a little silly, but the fact that we kind of enhance women's lives. Women tell me they don't go to a board meeting without a blowout, or if they have an important date, or sometimes, they're just want to feel better about themselves. Just the fact that we've built this amazing business that so many women love is amazing.
Feloni: So it's seeing that tangible impact?
Webb: Yeah, it's seeing how ... Yeah, that we impact women, we provide jobs, which continues to grow, and grow, and grow. The fact that of our 102 stores that we're at now, almost all of those stores are run by managers who were once stylists. So in our shops, we really try to grow these stylists who show management skills, and are just the hard workers we keep promoting, and promoting, and growing. Sometimes it's harder than others, but we feel really strongly about hiring from within, and promoting those people. Which, I also think makes people want to come and work for our company, because they know there's a path to growth and there's so much opportunity. And there is so much opportunity at our company.
Feloni: Is there a single piece of advice, or maybe the best piece of advice that you would want to give someone who wants to have a career like yours?
Webb: I think it's a couple things. I think it's starting with something that's an extreme passion. Obviously, I know this firsthand. If you're building a business, it takes so much time, effort, money, blood, sweat, and tears, all of it. You can't even understand that until you're in the trenches of it. So, if you're not so over the top passionate about it, it will never work. And then I would say being really open to feedback. And being receptive, and making sure the people around you know that you're receptive. The thing I hate the most is "yes" people. The last thing, I feel like probably every founder, and leader, feels this way, you don't ever want people around you who are just telling you what they think you want to hear. Nothing drives me more crazy. I want you to tell me the truth. I want to know. I don't want to be shielded from things either. I want to hear if something's going on in one of our stores. It makes my team a little crazy when clients directly email me something that happened. Because they're like, "Why are they emailing the founder of the company?" I'm like, "Why wouldn't they email the founder of the company?" I want to know everything. I want to know the truth. I want to know things that are going on in my company. If you surround yourself with people who are going to give it to you straight, I think you're going to be so much more successful, so that you really know what's going on. I think a lot of people find themselves in an environment that's not like that. Or they themselves are not open to feedback, and you don't really want to hear the bad stuff. You've got to hear the bad stuff to be great.
Feloni: Thank you so much, Alli.
Webb: Yeah, thank you for having me. This was fun!
As an executive health and performance coach, I'm frequently exposed to the glamours of being an entrepreneur. However, I'm also exposed to the not-so-glamorous aspects of being an entrepreneur.
I see entrepreneurs who have put on a significant amount of weight, have high levels of stress that are unmanaged, feel chronically fatigued, and most importantly, are living a lifestyle that is putting a strain on their families.
With hectic schedules, extensive traveling and long hours, it's easy to lose track of your healthy habits.
Nevertheless, maintaining healthy habits is a must as an entrepreneur. How can you expect to take care of clients, customers and your staff when your own needs aren't being met? Making yourself a priority will allow you to maximize your energy and increase your ability to care for others.
As an entrepreneur, exercising multiple times a week is a necessity because you have to be mentally sharp and operate with an unwavering focus each and every day. Your purpose is to make your brain as resilient as it can be and remove as much stress as possible so you're not distracted in the boardroom or when it's family time.
With that said, here are four reasons why exercising is an entrepreneur's greatest competitive advantage.
1. Operate with elite-level memory
Think of your memory as your brain's filing system. Everything you learn is stored here. As an entrepreneur, you have a plethora of important aspects of the job that requires a good memory. One overlooked, but critically important area, is networking. Remembering those small and obscure details from the contacts you meet is going to create more favorable impressions and opportunities.
To improve your memory, marathon sessions at the gym isn't necessary. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, scientists found that after six weeks of short bouts of interval training over the course of 20 minutes, improvements were made to the participant's memory. This is largely due to exercise helping support Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth, functioning and survival of your brain cells.
2. Develop laser-like focus and attention
Love him or hate him, one of the reasons former President Bill Clinton was so revered was due to his ability to give people his undivided attention. Being able to fully pay attention may sound easy, but few entrepreneurs are able to do this.
In fact, a 2010 Harvard study found that we spend 47% of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we're doing. Being able to give your undivided attention to a person or a specific task will separate you from the competition. A big part of success is as simple as sitting down, concentrating and getting some real work done.
When it comes to attention spans and exercising, a study published in the journal PLoS ONE, which was carried out by researchers from the University of Granada, found that those who do physical activities such as running or playing sports, can improve the functioning of their central nervous system (CNS) and autonomic nervous system (ANS).
This leads to higher levels of time perception, sustained attention and many other cognitive abilities.
3. Boost your creativity and problem-solving skills
How can Aristotle, Sigmund Freud, Harry Truman, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche and Ludwig Van Beethoven make you a better entrepreneur?
Simple, they are great examples of people who took advantage of exercising. A body in motion stands a much better chance of finding inspiration and catapulting through previous chokeholds.
As an entrepreneur, solving problems and getting your vision to come to fruition is a major aspect of the job. With that said, you're going to need your brain to be at its best.
In this 2014 study at Stanford, scientists found that when people are walking, their creative output increased by an average of 60%. For even greater benefits, if you happen to be near nature, taking a stroll through nature leads to even more mental benefits.
4. Exude executive presence
Sylvia Ann Hewlett's book Executive Presence consists of three aspects: gravitas, communication and appearance. Gravitas helps you project confidence. Communication is about effectively delivering your message. And appearance, which contrary to opinion isn't about being the most toned, but instead is about presenting the best version of yourself.
How does exercise relate to these three? In a multitude of ways.
Exercise plays a pivotal role in managing your levels of anxiety, along with your perception of yourself. Speaking of the latter, a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that the simple act of exercise, and not fitness itself, can convince you that you look better. Putting these things together, you're going to see an entrepreneur who is more confident, cool under pressure, decisive, emotionally intelligent, charismatic and more effective at articulating their vision.
Making exercise a non-negotiable isn't merely setting you up for success in the boardroom and to operate with an edge over the competition, it's also setting you up to be around to enjoy the fruits of your labor with those who are most important to you.
"It's like being an entrepreneur," said Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, "minus the risk."
Chamorro-Premuzic, a psychology professor at Columbia University and the chief talent scientist at Manpower, was referring to "intrapreneurship." It's a general term for acting like a company founder, but within the confines of an established organization — typically in what's called a corporate innovation lab. Think X, Alphabet's research and development team that's also been called a "moonshot factory."
Across industries, intrapreneurial opportunities have grown relatively common. And while few are as glamorous as traditional entrepreneurship can seem— you are, after all, working for The Man — there can be practical benefits for both individuals and organizations.
Specifically, Chamorro-Premuzic mentioned money. As a startup founder, you never know "if you're going to be bankrupt in one or two years," he said, adding, "The likely outcomes for founders or entrepreneurs are very bleak." Working under the umbrella of a major corporation provides financial and job security, since you aren't constantly hunting for funding.
The business case for intrapreneurship, according to Chamorro-Premuzic, is simply that companies aren't losing their most driven and most talented people to the startup world. Instead, companies dangle the prospect of relative freedom and creativity and hope that aspiring entrepreneurs will snatch it up.
To be sure, intrapreneurship has its detractors. In 2017, Anderee Berngian listed on VentureBeat all the companies that have closed their innovation labs in the last few years, including Nordstrom, Microsoft, and Coca-Cola. One potential reason Berngian floats: "Google has millions to spare" on failed projects. "Most companies don't."
Business Insider took a look at three corporate innovation labs, the kinds of challenges they're tackling, and the creatives they're hoping to attract.
IKEA's 'global future living lab' aims to head off impending disasters like food insecurity
One of the corporate innovation labs that's received the most media attention is IKEA's Space10. A "global future living lab" launched in Copenhagen in 2015, its creations include hydroponic farms and IKEA Place, an augmented-reality app that lets you see how furniture would look in your home.
"IKEA's overall mission is to create a better everyday life," said Simon Caspersen, cofounder of Space10. "We are basically set up to see how they can live up to that mission in new ways, that their current business is not delivering on." That means tackling current and coming challenges such as food insecurity and loneliness in cities, Caspersen said.
Only 25 people have full-time jobs at Space10. The lab then hires project specialists for temporary stints, or "residencies," as it calls them. Space10 also collaborates with different startups whose interests align with theirs.
Caspersen made the case for working at Space10 this way: "You are put together with some other incredible people that don't necessarily share your background or expertise," adding that "otherwise people often work in silos." An engineer might be working alongside a farmer, for example.
Plus, there's the exposure that a fledgling startup wouldn't ordinarily receive. "We do a lot to really highlight and promote the people that are part of the journey," Caspersen said.
Home Depot's innovation lab is tapping into college students' technological prowess
OrangeWorks is Home Depot's innovation lab, located on the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. The goal is to evaluate emerging technologies that could change either the customer experience or corporate operations (the lab isn't looking into products that would wind up on shelves).
The lab was launched in 2015, and since then it's produced things like a virtual pallet stacker, which moves heavy items around the warehouse. Anthony Gregorio, a senior manager at the Innovation Center, described the technology that led to the pallet stacker as a "3D Tetris for shipping containers that allows us to be as efficient as we possibly can."
Like Space10, OrangeWorks has a small core team: Just eight people, with varying technical skill sets, work there full time. About 60 Georgia Tech students also pitch in at OrangeWorks. Recently, Gregorio said, the team has been working on ways to use computer vision for inventory tracking and customer-service opportunities.
As for why someone would want to join OrangeWorks instead of starting something on their own, Gregorio said it's all about the "size, scale, and resources that an enterprise like our own can provide."
He used data as a prime example: "If somebody's trying to do something in the data analytics space, readily available data that'll help them build out their model isn't always something that's possible. … Something our size, we're able to provide that."
Accenture's innovation hubs are helping their biggest clients avoid 'disruption' by getting creative
At Accenture, employees know that their clients — which include many Fortune 500 companies — are at constant risk of getting "disrupted" by new technology. That's a major reason why Accenture is working on launching at least 14 innovation hubs in the US by 2020, putting some of the most creative minds in digital technology to work serving their clientele.
"One of the things our clients suffer from a little bit is they're part of large corporations with a lot of cultural inertia," said Bob Markham, managing director at Accenture Digital. "They don't always get exposed to a lot of diversity of thought."
Markham heads up the Chicago innovation hub, which was the first to launch, in 2016. It now has 600 full-time employees and is collaborating with four startups. But Markham said that it can be hard to attract top tech talent in the midwest.
What's more, Markham said, "our large enterprises sometimes have a mentality that they have to do it themselves." However, "oftentimes there are startups that have been thinking about the same problem."
By collaborating with that startup, the organization can have a minimum viable product in four to eight weeks, as opposed to a year, and spend "hundreds of thousands of dollars less than if they were to try to do it on their own," Markham said.
One example is the Washington, DC innovation hub's work with Marriott, whose business has been disrupted by online booking agencies like Kayak and Expedia. Accenture invested in a venturing arm that could help Marriott find startups that were thinking bout "travel experiences," such as a digital concierge.
In return, some startups receive mentoring, and all learn how to scale their product or service in a corporate environment.
Intrapreneurship isn't for everyone
While a job at a corporate innovation lab might seem thrilling, Chamorro-Premuzic sounded a note of caution.
"Not everybody is well-suited for this. It's really a minority of people who will thrive and enjoy and be good at this kind of job," he said. "But I think there's still an opportunity because many young people who decide to launch their own businesses could be employed by these largest corporations and basically do the same thing."
As an emergency physician working the night shift, I see people with all sorts of health crises.
Gunshot wounds. Broken bones. Severe bleeding. Heart attacks. Strokes. Overdoses. Extreme fevers.
Every night when I walk into the hospital, the waiting room is overcrowded and the hallways are lined with patients. They have one thing in common: None expected to be in the ER today.
Most of the patients began the day like any other. They went to work or school, spent time with family, picked up some groceries. Then, suddenly, a sudden health crisis or a horrible accident hit them from nowhere.
Some might see this as an inevitable part of the human condition. But apart from the random accidents and awful acts of violence, I believe the vast majority of those visits could have been prevented.
Most health crises are not sudden — rather, they are the culmination of a slowly deteriorating health condition. If the patients had monitored their health and taken the proper steps to address their issues, they wouldn’t be in the ER tonight.
For example, nearly one in three people have high blood pressure. The vast majority display no symptoms and are unaware of their condition — until they are suddenly hit by a heart attack or stroke.
The principle is simple: The qualitative sense of “feeling good” is no substitute for obtaining quantitative information on your underlying health and working with a doctor to determine if you’re at risk for a major health issue.
Tracking your physical health isn’t all that different from tracking your business’ health
As an entrepreneur, I take the exactly same approach to running my company, liveClinic. I want data on virtually every measure of financial and operational performance so that I can recognize emerging issues and deal with them in a proactive manner before significant problems develop.
It was analytics drawn from my medical experience that was the inspiration for forming liveClinic in the first place. On a typical ER shift, I noticed that only about 10% of patients could tell me their medical history and the medications they’re taking. We researched over 100 clinics in the US and found similar results. It’s a problem for both patients and their health care providers: people simply do not recall their medical histories and their current medications — nor do they have an efficient way to access the information.
Now, marketing insights derived through various initiatives help us understand our users better. We work to check what our users like about the benefits and functionalities of our application. We conduct qualitative interviews that later help us delve into quantitative information on the values we create for our users to drive business actions.
We frequently use A/B testing, which allows us to assess two similar, but slightly different website features, to determine the best approach to engaging our users.
For example, we initially had direct links for user signup from our website. After qualitative interviews we wanted to experiment with embedding direct signup ability for our users right from the website. We started seeing 20% jump in signups after making that change.
By analyzing user behavior on our website, we discovered people were unlikely to take the trouble of uploading their medical records unless they had a compelling reason to do so. To solve that problem, we developed a system that enabled people to earn and redeem points for rewards, much like airline or credit card rewards, based on their health. As a result, engagement on our site increased dramatically.
I fervently believe that in order to improve any element of life — from health to business — you have to focus on the quantitative, not just the qualitative.
You can’t improve what you don’t measure.
Collect data. Compare. Pivot. Remeasure. Pivot again if needed. It may save your business — or your life.
As I like to say, where there’s a market inefficiency, there’s a commercial opportunity.
We know that only a tiny fraction of venture capital investment flows to women and people of color. Whether because of lack of experience with this demographic, or lack of imagination or understanding, the consequences have had profound societal ramifications. From a financial perspective, underinvestment in female and multicultural tech entrepreneurs represents a market inefficiency.
Because they were overlooked for so long, companies founded by women and people of color represent one of the biggest investment opportunities of our time. They are coming up with ideas that “traditional” founders don’t see, reaching untapped, growing markets, and generating real returns for investors who recognize what they have to offer.
That’s why nine tech entrepreneurs join me every day at Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab. The Lab is one of the programs we started to change the investment landscape for entrepreneurs who struggle to overcome the institutional and cultural barriers to funding that so many multicultural and female founders face.
This isn’t just something we thought would be nice to do. Morgan Stanley looks to generate returns, and based on our professional market analysis, we feel it is incumbent on us, not as social scientists but as investment advisors, to bring these opportunities to the markets, to our clients.
That’s what’s on my mind when I’m sitting across the table from one of our entrepreneurs like Louise Broni-Mensah, who built Shoobs, a platform for urban nightlife, culture, and entertainment in her native England when she saw there was nothing like it, despite clear demand. When she tried to find investors, however, most of the, well, men, that she spoke to couldn’t imagine or connect with the idea and the market. It took off nonetheless, entirely due to her hard work, and we’re helping her bring Shoobs to the next level. I’m proud to say she’ll soon launch in the United States this fall, in none other than New York City.
Then there’s Tanya Van Court, who earned not one, but two engineering degrees from Stanford before establishing herself as a force in corporate marketing. She saw a gap in the market for services that teach financial literacy and strategies for goal-based savings to children that would stay with them as they grew into adults, so she built Goalsetter. She knew that both low-income and wealthy families could leverage the practice, the former to nurture ambition and financial wherewithal, and the latter to encourage responsible stewardship of family funds. And she persevered when potential investors shrugged, unable to fathom why anyone would need such a service.
Louise and Tanya are part of the second cohort of our Innovation Lab, two of nine companies chosen from more than 300 applications. Morgan Stanley understood their visions, and was willing to bet that if we provided capital and helped them build the kinds of networks many other entrepreneurs have, they could be something special.
The companies in our Lab all struggled to get funding, even when they participated in incubators that routinely connected their counterparts with millions. We provide $200,000, office space, a tailored curriculum, and mentorship from some of our most experienced people — in addition to access to our global network of investors.
Support goes all the way to the top, too. After a chance meeting in the elevator, Param Jaggi, whose company, Hatch Apps, enables businesses to build apps without any coding, emailed our Chairman and CEO James Gorman asking for a meeting. James told him — and the rest of the group — to come on up to his office.
And guess what? These folks are making great progress, and the companies from our first cohort continue to grow as well. One was already acquired. Another has acquisition offers on the table. Another launched a seed round that was oversubscribed and moved up its planning for a Series A.
That’s the kind of promise I see in Rhoden Monrose, whose company, CariClub, helps businesses connect young staff with associate board opportunities at non-profits. Rhoden was raised by a single mother in East Harlem who got help from several non-profits to get him and his sister the best education possible. He got a job at an investment bank after college, and wanted to give back, but didn’t know where to start. From this discovered gap between the desire to give back and the opportunity to do so, he created CariClub.
His clients are corporations that recognize his product as a great tool for cultivating employee engagement, enabling professional development, and demonstrating their own values. He’s in good shape now, but for two “brutal” years, he struggled to convince investors, most of whom were essentially born into networks where these opportunities are plentiful and just didn’t see the market. Morgan Stanley did, and we’re now one of his clients.
At the end of each day, I know that we have invested our time, and our capital, in a way that will be game changing for these companies and for us.
Carla Harris is a Vice Chairman, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley. She is responsible for increasing client connectivity and penetration to enhance revenue generation across the firm.Learn more about the Multicultural Innovation Lab at Morgan Stanley »
It's no surprise that the tech industry has a diversity problem.
But it turns out that the problem is much bigger than people in Silicon Valley and beyond may have realized.
It's well known that women, blacks, and Latinos are underrepresented in tech companies, particularly in the upper ranks. It's also well known that they tend to get paid less in salary for the same jobs than their white male counterparts. But the tech industry has a far larger divide that's been mostly kept secret until now, having to do with the ownership of companies.
Much of the payoff that tech workers get from working in the industry comes in the form of ownership stakes in their companies, whether in the form of founders' shares or stock options or restricted stock. It turns out that distribution of those shares is even more titled in favor of men than pay or representation within companies, a recent study from Carta found. And the underlying value of the shares is even more weighted in favor of men.
Women hold just 9% of the wealth linked to shares in tech startups
Carta offers an online service that helps companies manage their employee-owned shares and options. For its study, it looked at the private, venture-backed companies in its database. It didn't have direct information on employees' gender, but inferred it from their names, excluding those that were ambiguous. By definition, all the people included in the study held some sort of ownership stake in their companies; employees that don't have options or shares in their companies aren't in Carta's database.
Women comprised 33% of the people in the study; in other words, they made up about a third of all employee shareholders. But their shares were worth just 9% of the total value held by all employee owners in the study. Of the $42.6 billion held by the startup founders or workers included in Carta's study, just $4 billion was held by women.
Much of that imbalance is due to the paucity of venture-backed female founders and the value of the firms they lead. Women represent just 13% of all the founders in Carta's database. And their share of the total value of founder-held shares is only 6%.
"There's just a disproportionately low amount of capital going to back women," said Jana Messerschmidt, another member of the #Angels group.
Women do better as employees than as founders, but they still are getting a raw deal when it comes to equity stakes in their companies. Some 35% of non-founder employees in Carta's database are women. But their shares are worth just 20% of the total value held by such employees.
Put another way, women tech workers hold about 47 cents worth of equity for every dollar held by their male counterparts.
Startups don't tend to bring on women until later
Women lag behind men in part because they tend to be a small minority of the early employees at tech companies. At firms with 20 or fewer equity-holding employees, just 29% are women, on average. Even at companies with 101 to 400 equity employees, women make up just 35% to 36% of those workers. It's not until firms get to more than 400 workers that their portion of employee-owners who are women goes north of 40%.
By comparison, women comprise some 47% of workers in the total private US workforce.
Their low representation at early-stage startups is important. Early workers tend to get more valuable share grants than later workers, in part because they get in on the ground floor, when the company is usually worth very little.
Additionally, a disproportionate portion of the early hires at startups are engineers or developers, workers who are typically seen as vital to the startups' success and often paid accordingly. Women tend to be dramatically underrepresented in such positions.
Startups generally wait until later in their development to fill out the departments where women are more prominent, such as marketing, human resources, and sales — and they tend to award them with fewer and less valuable shares.
"The amount of equity that's given to employees decays over time," said Henry Ward, Carta's CEO.
The study had some notable shortcomings. Carta's database doesn't actually include equity holders' gender. The company inferred gender from the holders' names, excluding those from its study that were ambiguous. So the equity disparity could be somewhat bigger or smaller than what Carta found.
Additionally, the database doesn't include any data about holders' race or ethnicity. So, Carta wasn't able to look at the equity differences among different groups. Those too are likely to be significant. African-Americans and Latinos have long been grossly underrepresented in the tech industry. And a recent study indicates that members of those groups tend to be in lower-paying positions on average than their white counterparts and, even accounting for that, tend to be paid less than whites in comparable positions.
This is more than just a problem for the 1%
To be sure, compared with other inequality problems the US faces, disparity in equity compensation and holdings may seem rather trivial. Many workers — particular those in lower-skilled jobs — don't get health care benefits or sick days, much less stock options.
Tech workers, meanwhile, are generally well compensated overall, regardless of how many options they get. And when you're talking about founders, you're often talking about people in the top 1% of income earners.
But the disparity does matter, at least in terms of its downstream consequences. Much of Silicon Valley's ecosystem is built around the equity held by successful startup founders. Those founders often take their payouts when their firms are acquired or go public and use them to create other firms or to fund other entrepreneurs through so-called angel investments.
Many also join venture capital firms, where they help determine which of the next generation of startups get funding, or sit on tech company boards, where they help shape the composition of executive teams. They also often use their startup payouts to set up foundations that give out money to their preferred charities.
Silicon Valley is a clubby place. Founders tend to hire people who look like them, went to college with them, or run in the same social circles. VCs tend to invest in companies with founders that either look like them or look like founders who succeeded in the past. In both cases, the people who get funding or top positions tend to be male and white or, to some extent, Asian.
And that's become something of a cycle. White male VCs fund startups run by white men who, when they cash out, become VCs who fund the next generation of white male entrepreneurs.
So the disparity in equity in Silicon Valley doesn't just affect who's seeing the big bucks when a company goes public, it also affects who gets funded the next time around, who gets hired, what products and services are developed, and what communities see investments.
"In Silicon Valley, money from a successful exit is about more than just wealth," said Sladden. "It's the power to shape and choose the products and institutions that shape Silicon Valley the for next generation."
When a patient arrives in the emergency room, I'm trained to check three things first: airway, breathing, and circulation. In the chaos of the emergency room, when patients are horribly injured and in great pain, it’s tempting to bypass the sequence and immediately treat the injury and pain.
That would be a mistake.
Early in my career, I examined a patient who fractured his ankle so badly that the bone was protruding from the skin. While my first instinct was to immediately address this hideously painful injury, I suppressed this surge of empathy and completed my assessment. I quickly discovered his lung had collapsed.
If I hadn’t followed the sequence and examined his entire body, the patient very likely would have died.
The lesson here: Address the quietly critical before you address the visibly urgent.
Unfortunately, your emotions are usually working against you. The amygdalae are two almond-sized lumps in your brain, one on each side. Their job is to connect a life experience to an emotion. When we encounter an intense situation, the amygdalae go into action and hijack the logical sections of our brains.
They’re responsible for panic. Intense anger. Paralyzing fear. These emotions are a natural part of life, but they are also the enemy of good decision-making and effective performance.
As an emergency room doctor and a soldier, I learned how to deal with my instinctive emotions and perform under pressure. Now that I run my own startup outside of the ER, I’ve found I must exercise the same type of self-control.
In place of the ER protocol of airway, breathing, and circulation, I utilize a process of assess, break it down, and complete to determine the right actions to take in the face of a challenging business or personal situation.
For example, let’s say you’re running a startup business that’s struggling to find customers and is under intense scrutiny from investors who are threatening to sell their stakes if the financial performance doesn’t improve. That’s exactly what happened to me.
One morning, we found a pornography website had hacked our website. Now thousands of physicians seeking our teaching material were getting more than they wished for. Our IT team detected the threat early on and believed the threat could be isolated and contained without taking the entire system offline. As CEO, the obvious temptation was to instruct the team to quietly handle the situation to avoid any harm to our reputation. We had enough problems already.
Instead, we assessed the situation objectively and broke down the possible scenarios.
Using my framework of assess, break it down, and complete, we determined the greatest threat to the life of the business would be to remain silent in the face of possibility that the hacker stole our customer data — and then a customer discovers from another source that their data had been compromised. Our reputation among all our customers would be irreparably harmed and we would be subject to legal action. Our fledgling business could easily be destroyed.
The proper decision: Notify all customers, investors, and law enforcement agencies of the security hack and explain everything we’re doing to contain the damage and set up new protocols to better safeguard our systems.
Sure, it wasn’t pleasant. But by not allowing my amygdalae to hijack my logic, we made the right decision and took the right actions. Sticking with a disciplined process in tough situations helps enormously.
We can’t make panic, fear, and anger disappear from our lives. What we can do is create processes and routines that help us to perform at our best and avoid impulsive actions that may harm ourselves and others.
It works in the ER. It can work in business, too.
One of the most important factors to weigh when choosing the name of a company is how memorable it will be to your customers.
The founders of Beeswax kept that in mind.
Beeswax is a New York ad-tech startup founded by three former Google ad executives. The company pioneered a new way for marketers to bid for ads online. Three years after the startup's launch, its revenue was estimated at $25 million.
So what does beeswax have to do with advertising?
"I really liked the insect metaphors because our customers are very hardworking and industrious, and they're toiling away doing their thing," CEO Ari Paparo told Business Insider. "So we were thinking about hives and ants and bees and it just evolved."
The metaphor doesn't stop there. The names of Beeswax's products are on-brand references like Buzz, Drone, Stinger, Pollinator, and Waggle, the name of a dance bees use to communicate. The walls of Beeswax's Manhattan office are painted with hexagonal, honeycomb-like designs.
"We're doing something really different, we're doing something pretty bold. We want it to be memorable," chief product officer Shamim Samadi told Business Insider.
For the founders, choosing a unique name for their startup was also a way to distinguish them from their competition. In New York City alone, the crowded ad-tech industry includes companies with names like AdRoll, AdHawk, ADstruc, adMarketplace, and xAd, and Paparo said "it was the No. 1 requirement" that their name didn't have "ad" in it.
"Ad tech's been around for a while, and we're coming into the market later than our competition. So we felt like we just had to break through," Paparo said. "If we had another name like AdPotato, everyone would be like, ah, that sounds like those other guys, 'ad' this, 'ad' that."
"So definitely it was a conscious decision to try to do something that would leverage up our awareness and our marketing."
Samadi put it more bluntly.
"No one's asked what our company name is twice," he said.
“Susie, I’m quitting my job this Friday — I can’t believe this day has come!”
This was the second message I got in two weeks from a Side Hustle Made Simple student of mine who had stepped out into being their own boss. It’s always celebratory news because transitioning out of a 9-5 is a goal for a lot of people. And starting a side hustle is their most practical, low-risk path to get there.
After coaching people from jewelry designers to aqua aerobics instructors on how to start and then skyrocket their side hustle, there are five key qualities I observe over and over again in those that take it all the way to full time entrepreneurship (like I did in 2014).
To be your own boss is something you have to really want. It can’t just be a nice idea or sort-of interesting to you. Running a business (even if it’s just one person — you!) has endless ups and downs, so the certainty that it’s the right choice for you matters.
When your clarity about being a CEO is firm, you are more in tune with your own intuition than anyone else’s opinion. This is important because most people are risk averse and prefer job misery to entrepreneurial uncertainty and are happy to convince you to keep your “safe” job. Your creativity fires up, too — when you go “all in,” money-making opportunities become more visible to you because they have to.
Almost every successful side hustler I’ve coached grows leaps and bounds every six months. This is because they constantly ask questions and learn new skills (from using Wordpress to copywriting to Facebook ad execution). Learning never ends.
But learning isn’t enough. Knowledge is only potential power so applying it is where the money-making magic happens. Execution is everything. Better 27 attempts at launching a product or service and one taking off than creating the perfect product that never ships.
The good and bad news about starting out is that there is no right way — or one way — to be successful. There are millions of ways to run a profitable side hustle that can replace and exceed your income.
This means you have to be decisive. You have to choose your product name, your product price, your sales strategy. You need to make a call on when to go to market, how to niche yourself, when to make your first hire.
Indecision will keep you at a standstill, and standing still has the same impact as falling behind.
In her best-selling book “Grit,” Angela Duckworth writes, “Grit has two components: passion and perseverance. This consistent pattern — perseverance scores more often topping passion scores — is a clue that passion and perseverance aren’t exactly the same thing.”
Put simply, passion isn’t enough. You need tenacity and perseverance, too. Being able to bounce back from failures and fostering a healthy growth mindset (“What can I learn from this? Onward!”) is critical. Sensitivity and dwelling on failure or criticism will sink you.
5. Comfort being seen
In order for people to buy your stuff, they have to know about you. This means the hustle applies to building an audience as much as it does build a product that delivers value. This is not easy for a lot of people, but those who push through it, win. It also gets easier with time and there are many methods even an introvert can master to get attention on their business. For example, getting free publicity has been a game-changer for my students and for me.
Instagram, SPANX, and Udemy were all side hustles once upon a time. Starting small doesn’t mean you don’t finish big. So, if you’re hungry for it, are willing to execute, make daily decisions, persevere through obstacles, and be seen by more and more people, your resignation letter may be closer than you think, too.
Susie Moore is a New York-based high-performance coach, consultant, and author of "What If It Does Work Out?: How a Side Hustle Can Change Your Life." She’s been featured on the Today show, Forbes, Oprah.com and more. If you’re curious about starting (or scaling) your side hustle, sign up for her free workshop here.
Eoghan McCabe, CEO and co-founder of Intercom, first came up with the idea for his business in a coffee shop.
In Dublin, where McCabe is from, he and his coworkers would frequent a hipster coffee shop called 3fe and chat with the owner, Colin Harmon. There weren’t many other coffee shops with that vibe in the city, and McCabe appreciated how Harmon connected with his customers. The personalized service Harmon offered ended up inspiring McCabe and his partners.
"We got to meet and appreciate the guy, feel the passion for his craft," McCabe said. "We built a relationship with him and paid more for his overpriced coffee."
He continued: "When we looked at every internet business, they didn’t get to connect with us the way Colin connected with us."
McCabe started thinking about how internet businesses aren't great at interacting with customers. Typically they send customers emails from "donotreply" addresses and then route them through not always helpful "help" desks when they need more support.
"All these products were really impersonal," McCabe said. "With Colin, if you went into his store and asked, 'We have a question about Colombian roast,' he’d say, 'What is it?'"
McCabe and co-founders Des Traynor, Ciaran Lee, and David Barrett, soon got to work on a messaging service for companies that became the foundation of Intercom.
Intercom has become a billion-dollar company and is growing fast
Fast forward seven years to today, and the company has become a $1.3 billion business headquartered in San Francisco with offices in four other cities. It's one of the fastest growing startups in Silicon Valley. In March, it raised $125 million in new funds. And just this month, it launched its new product, the Answer Bot.
When Intercom first began, it focused on creating an instant messaging system to connect companies' customers with their sales, marketing, and support employees. Its next step is to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to create bots that can offer customer support.
"The first chapter was about getting people back into the mix," McCabe said. "This next chapter is to facilitate automation, bots, to achieve the same vision and mission."
That may seem contradictory. After all, Intercom's original goal was to make businesses more personal, and bots are literally not persons at all.
But McCabe says the apparent contradiction goes away if you think about the meaning of "personal."
It's "all about treating the customer as an individual," he said. "It’s about respecting their time and their dignity. It's all about getting them to their ideal outcome.
"We started to realize these bots and automation technology could do all that — sometimes better than humans."
Intercom's bots are designed to help out human workers
Intercom's bots aren't pretending to be humans; they're open about being bots. They're also not intended to completely replace human workers. Instead, they're meant to assist them and allow companies to help more customers than they could before.
If a company only has human workers to handle customer service questions, customers can end up having to wait long periods for someone to handle their queries. Intercom's clients can use Answer Bot to handle some of those questions instead.
The service uses machine learning, relying on previous conversations between employees and customers to figure out how to answer new queries. Intercom clients can even build their own chatbots using Custom Bot, a product the company released in August.
While their bots are handling routine questions, companies can route more complicated ones to their human workers.
"Answer Bot has a deep bank of the questions people ask about that business," McCabe said. "The next time people ask that question, it doesn't get sent to your support team to answer that question for the 2000th damn time. Answer Bot can answer that and say, 'let us know if you need anything else.'"
McCabe predicts that bots will soon become commonplace. Intercom has over 30,000 paying customers, including Sotheby's, Atlassian, Shopify, and Expensify, and its service facilitates 500 million conversations a month. To improve its bot technology, the company is doubling down on research and development and expanding its product development team.
McCabe and his team learned from past mistakes
But leading a company hasn't always been easy, McCabe said. Intercom isn’t his first startup — he had previously founded two other ones with the company's other cofounders. Those experiences helped, since he and his partners made a lot of mistakes along the way in their prior ventures.
"A lot of the dumbest mistakes we got out of the way," he said.
McCabe and his cofounders learned that to be successful, they needed to figure out how to have their companies do what they're best at while continuing to innovate. Having learned that lesson, he’s ready to face the next chapter in automation. And he thinks his company is primed for a major transition in the industry.
"In the next couple of years, every single business that has invested in trying to accelerate their growth will have simple bots working alongside humans," he said. That will allow them "to have higher quality and faster response to allow humans to do what humans do best."
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When he launched Gympass in summer 2012, Cesar Carvalho never imagined that the company would one day scale to include 38,000 fitness facilities across the globe.
That was a problem.
Gympass is a corporate fitness program similar to ClassPass. Once a company signs up, its employees have access to a range of gyms in different locations, at a discounted rate. Current global clients include Uber, PayPal, and Deloitte.
When Carvalho, the company's cofounder and CEO, started building Gympass, he was a student at Harvard Business School; he dropped out soon after to work full-time on his business.
Carvalho told Business Insider that his inability to envision a bigger future for the company — which currently employs about 800 people worldwide — negatively influenced his hiring strategy. Specifically, he made the mistake of looking for people who could do the job that day, as opposed to people who would still excel in their role years into the future.
"The hiring decisions that we made in the beginning were not optimal," Carvalho said. "We had to continuously bring more senior people to the company. And what I learned from it is that being able to plan for the next two to three years helps a lot on that."
Today, he seeks candidates "who are going to be great [working on] not what has to be done today, but two to three years from now."
You probably won't regret over-investing in hiring top talent
Carvalho's observations about hiring recall those of Patty McCord, the former chief talent officer at Netflix. McCord previously told Business Insider that managers should always be considering whether the team they have now will still be able to push the company forward in six months. If not, the manager may need to replace some people on their team.
To be sure, a stellar candidate may not necessarily want to join your fledgling startup.
"It's actually super challenging to make the decision to hire someone for what the company needs three years from now," Carvalho said. "At the point in time that you're making the decision, you might not have at the bank the cash that you need to support that person."
That means "taking two leaps of faith on the future of the company," Carvalho said. Not only are you assuming that this person will still be a good fit in three years — you're also assuming that the business will still be successful in three years.
That said, Carvalho wishes he'd invested more in the people running his company from the outset: "Had we done it, we would have been at a much better stage today than we currently are."
When Justin McLeod was first pitching his idea for dating app Hinge, few people believed he'd be successful.
Instead, McLeod told Business Insider, they'd say to him, "This is never going to be a thing. Match.com owns the market. No one's ever going to be able to break into it."
This was more than seven years ago, back before dating apps had taken off (Tinder launched in 2012). But McLeod, Hinge's CEO, was relatively certain that the app — which initially matched users with people they were connected to through mutual Facebook friends — would be a hit.
Today, Hinge has raised more than $20 million, according to Crunchbase, and is one of the most popular dating apps in the US.
When McLeod advises early stage entrepreneurs, he mentions his own determination to make Hinge work, even in the face of resistance. But he also cautions those founders to listen to their critics and to be willing to change course if necessary.
As an entrepreneur, McLeod said, you must have "this naiveté and belief that you're going to make this succeed no matter what. But, on the other hand, if you hold too closely to your vision, and you're not flexible, and you're not willing to change it, and you're not willing to evolve over time, then you can just hold onto some vision that's not working."
McLeod knows firsthand about the importance of flexibility. In 2016, he made the decision to "reboot" Hinge, most notably removing the swiping feature so the app could appeal more to users interested in serious relationships.
This decision, McLeod said, was based partly on the publication of a Vanity Fair article about the dating "apocalypse," and partly on McLeod's observation that Hinge had become too similar to other dating apps on the market.
"If you always listen to everyone else, then you'll never do anything new," McLeod said. "And if you never listen to anyone else, then you'll get to the point where you might do something crazy, or you're just banging your head against the wall."
He added that at Hinge, "Doing things the same way we've always done as the company continues to grow and the market continues to change is just a recipe for disaster."
Running a business is harder than it looks, and it pays to have someone show you the ropes.
That's why Daniela Corrente, a first-time CEO who founded the personal-finance app Reel, said the smartest move she's made in her career so far is hiring a business coach.
Business coaches are personal mentors who help executives grow their business and clarify their vision for the company. They're part of a rapidly growing industry, but as Corrente puts it, hiring one still carries something of a stigma for early-stage companies.
"I know plenty of successful people that use a coach, they just don't necessarily admit it or say it out loud," she told Business Insider.
Corrente said she meets with her coach once a week to discuss everything from hiring strategy, fundraising, and establishing company values. The biggest help came with developing measurable benchmarks for her office of six employees, she said.
"Nobody tells you when you have an idea and you want to bring it to life that all of a sudden you have to become an accountant, HR, so many things in the beginning, especially as a first-time founder," she told Business Insider. "There are so many things you have to manage to keep the train running."
On top of that, her coach even recommended she start meditating, something she says has made her more patient and less stressed.
"A big part of being a good CEO is investing time developing your personal skills so you can evolve as your company evolves," she said. "The founder you are when you have one employee has to be fundamentally different to the founder you need to be when you have 50 employees."
Reel, founded in 2016, aims to help users afford big-ticket fashion items. Users select clothing and accessories they want and are prompted to link their bank account and allocate a certain amount of savings to the purchase each day or week. When they hit their target, they can buy the product.
Corrente knew she didn't have the business pedigree other company founders might, having studied industrial design and communications in school. That made hiring a coach an easy decision.
"Most companies fail not for lack of capital, but for lack of good leadership. So I’m highly invested in being the best leader I can be for my team and for the success of Reel," she said.
I've been freelancing for more than two decades. By most standards, I've had a successful career, with bylines in more than 100 publications, including Marie Claire, The Globe and Mail, and The Washington Post. Most years, I've cleared six figures, a feat considering the average national income for a freelance writer is $46,000. I love what I do for a living.
I'm a bit of a professional anomaly. I'm a college dropout who stumbled into a writing career. I didn't go to journalism school or have a mentor. I learned every single thing I know by making mistakes.
The biggest lesson I learned early on, though, was to be kind and empathetic but fiercely protect my boundaries. This strategy has paid dividends in my life, both personally and professionally.
A balancing act
As soon as I learned how to balance being an empathetic human being with my own sense of agency, I became far more successful in life, in general.
I'm a giver by nature (but most definitely not a people-pleaser). If I drop my walls and let you in, you're all in, and I'll go to the mat for you every time. I also try to spread kindness whenever possible, whether it's a smile, some kind words or an intentional act, like a handwritten note or impromptu bouquet of flowers.
I'm a natural born networker and I love connecting people. I believe if you're good and good at what you do, there's always enough to go around. I tirelessly try to build my friends and peers up. That kind of support is invaluable.
The not-so-great thing is I've learned is that people will take advantage of kindness. As a result, I've had to learn how to set hard and fast boundaries. I stopped saying "yes" to things I don't want to do, whether it's a work project or personal engagement. If something doesn't bring positivity into my life, I steer clear.
The benefits of boundaries
Some people interpret my boundaries as a way of keeping people out, but they make my life easier and free up the space to give more of myself to things that actually matter to me. I choose to invest my time in creating a happy and prosperous life and don't make room for people or projects that drain my energy.
You're never going to please anyone 100% of the time, and you should never apologize for putting yourself first, especially if it puts you in a better position to help others.
Establishing boundaries allows you to prioritize your well-being while creating the space to be kind and take care of others. I've found that striking this magic balance makes it so much easier to be positive and productive and live an unapologetically authentic and successful life.
It's human nature to want to avoid tough conversations.
But the most successful people know that skirting around uncomfortable subjects just makes things worse in the long run.
That's what Noam Wasserman, a professor of clinical entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California, discovered after almost 20 years of studying 20,000 startup founders.
Wasserman wrote about the lessons he learned from his research in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday, and he said they apply to both business and life itself.
The professor wrote that the best startup founders he studied had a tendency to approach tough discussions head on — "going ugly," as he calls it.
"In a hypercompetitive environment, there is little wiggle room for balky products or ineffective team members," Wasserman wrote for The Journal. "As a result, the best founders move quickly to identify and deal with any problem areas they see, despite the natural inclination to avoid tension-filled issues."
In one case he studied, two of the three cofounders of a software startup had doubts that the third founder would remain with the company. The third founder had just become a father, and they suspected he might take his ownership stake in the startup and leave for a more stable job, leaving the company unable to attract a good replacement.
To cover their bases, the founders "went ugly" and drafted a plan about what would happen in such a scenario.
"It was a tough conversation, but it paid off," Wasserman wrote. "When the new father decided that he couldn't found a venture while founding a family, the company had a deal ready to go. The co-founders reclaimed his ownership stake, used his shares to lure a replacement executive and, down the road, attracted a buyer."
But "going ugly" is more than just good business advice — it can help in personal relationships, too.
Wasserman said one of his students had a habit of "going ugly" on first dates, refusing to tiptoe around awkward topics like income prospects and where he wants to live.
Prenuptial agreements are another example of how "going ugly" can benefit both parties in a relationship.
"Just as in the entrepreneurial world, agreements like these can strengthen relationships by surfacing issues early, revealing people's true intentions and motivations and clarifying expectations while adjustments can still be made easily," Wasserman said.